Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Every day this month a different ingredient useful to gluten-free vegetarian cooks will be explained, and a recipe using this ingredient will be provided. Here's hoping this will be helpful whether you're organizing a new gluten-free pantry or are an experienced gf cook!

Today's ingredient, xanthan gum, is a white powder made from a tiny microorganism called Xanthomonas campestris, and is widely used in gluten free baking give dough or batter the stickiness that would be present if gluten flour were not replaced by gluten-free flours. It holds small particles of food together, getting rid of an unpleasant crumbly quality that is sometimes a characteristic of gluten free baked goods made with an inadequate amount of binding agent, or none at all. 

Approximately one teaspoon xanthan gum per cup of flour is used for breads and cakes, and about a half teaspoon for cookies and pancakes, but these are just estimates, since the number of whole eggs or egg whites in a recipe will influence the amount. If you are beginning to bake gluten-free, it's best to find a tested recipe with xanthan or guar gum (they can be used interchangeably) already calculated for you. 

Sold in Whole Foods Markets, it is also available at several online vendors (Vitacost and Barry Farm to name two), and at most health food stores. It is not inexpensive, but very little is used in any individual recipe, so it should last a while. Here's a bread recipe that uses xanthan gum. Needless to say, the texture is excellent! 

One of the keys to success with this recipe, or most other bread recipes, is having items at the correct temperature. All the ingredients listed below should be at room temp (put the eggs in warm water for a while if they're straight out of the fridge), and where exact temps are listed, please follow them (and be sure to have on hand a thermometer, either standard or digital, to measure the internal temperature of the bread).


2T yeast

1 1/2 T sugar

1 1/2 c water, 110 degrees (lukewarm)

1c cornstarch

1c sorghum flour

1c brown rice flour

1T xanthan gum

2 tsp salt

2T olive oil

1 tsp vinegar

3 egg whites

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix sugar, water and yeast in small bowl. 

Mix salt, xanthan gum and flours on low, in mixer.

When yeast mixture is foamy, add to flours.

Mix egg whites, oil and vinegar in medium bowl. 

Add to mixer bowl.

Mix on high for 4 minutes.

Oil cookie sheet or french bread forms.

Dust with cornmeal.

Ladle batter into forms or onto sheets. 

(One loaf per sheet if using cookie sheets.)

Spray loaves with cooking spray.

With cool, wet spatula, smooth tops of loaves.

Cover and let rise to double in warm place. 

(I use top of stove as oven heats.)

Make angled cuts in loaves with razor blade.

Bake until internal temperature is 200 degrees, about 1 hr.

Cool to room temp, out of pans, before slicing.

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